Adoption of low-code application development platforms is increasing. In fact, analyst firm Gartner says, “by 2025, 70% of new applications developed by enterprises will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25% in 2020.” Driving this accelerated adoption of low code technology are two trends: a lack of skilled professional developers and the need to continuously modernize and digitize mission-critical processes and systems. This latter trend has been spurred by customer and employee demand for what Gartner calls “the total experience” – delivery of more seamless, intuitive, digital-first experiences.
Enterprise-grade, low-code platforms help solve these challenges.
By bringing business users and citizen developers into the development workflow, enterprises can increase production capabilities without relying on professional developers. These non-traditional developers typically are closer to the front-end technologies that their employees and customers use, so they have first-hand knowledge of end-user experiences and the best ways of improving these experiences. The intuitive, model-based interfaces found in most low-code platforms make it easy for non-professional programmers to collaborate on building and improving the workflows, processes, and UI that drive end-user experiences.
But workflows can be complex, especially for large, global enterprises. That’s why, in addition to model-based development capabilities, enterprises should look for low-code platforms that are powerful, easy to use, and support highly-performant applications for smart, modern, digital interfaces. And with the continued increase in distributed workforces, channels, and systems, it’s critical these platforms be able to help you connect easily with internal and external data sources to drive intelligent workflows from start to finish.
Software development life cycle (SDLC) – Gartner recommends looking for a low-code platform with “one-step application deployment, execution, and management” capabilities. We agree with that view. An enterprise-grade, low-code platform should make it easy for developers of all skill levels to collaborate and contribute and should support a consistent cycle of continuous integration / continuous delivery (CI/CD). Low-code platforms with a comprehensive development environment are ones that support building, testing, debugging, and continuous delivery and integration, plus use an event-driven architecture to capture app dev activity and move projects through the development pipeline. These types of unified platforms provide powerful workflow creation and management capabilities that give enterprises the flexibility needed to quickly respond to market changes.
User experience (UX) design – Organizations are swiftly moving to digital-first services. We think enterprise-grade, low-code platforms that allow developers to define the journeys, outcomes, and processes for a range of user personas and digital devices give organizations a competitive advantage. Additionally, platforms that allow organizations to centrally define application design templates and requirements that support external and internal UX standards provide better consistency in the design and functionality of applications and help streamline development.
Development productivity – Gartner defines this as how the “platform enables professional developers, citizen developers, business technologists or fusion teams to collaboratively develop applications.” As mentioned above, we think an enterprise-grade, low-code platform should make it quick and easy for people with a range of development skills to collaborate, create, and deploy mission-critical business processes throughout the organization. It should provide a clear way to visualize data modeling and business logic. Platforms that enable implementation of a standard, repeatable deployment process empower all users to build and deploy high-quality apps quickly. Functionalities like automated testing tools and REST APIs that integrate and automate actions with other systems and third-party tools help provide the transparency we see as critical for efficient, collaborative development and deployment.
Business logic and workflow – As mentioned earlier, enterprise workflows are becoming more and more complex, which is one of the reasons low-code platforms that give pro and citizen developers the tools to build and automate workflows are in demand. Platforms that accommodate an infinite combination of data, human work, bots, rules, exceptions, logic, straight-through processing, and AI-based decisions are able to support the complexity of today’s enterprises. After all, if a low-code platform can’t support all the work critical to the success of your business, it’s not very useful. We think the important questions enterprise leaders need to consider when evaluating low-code platforms are: Does the platform have the best capabilities to support your organization’s unique strategic and operational needs? Does the platform make it easy to get your work done? Can the platform scale?
Integration and APIs – Enterprise systems are becoming increasingly more distributed. Your systems, for example, may be running apps on a private cloud and need to access data from a public cloud as well as from a bespoke, on-premises repository just to execute a simple task. The truth is, no enterprise system is simple anymore. However, platforms that support open technologies, REST APIs, and have UI that allow users to visually map and manage data and integrations help simplify integration management in app development. And specific to developers, platforms that can integrate with third-party libraries and frameworks, like React and Angular, give developers access to tools that help standardize and speed development.
Platform ecosystem – Even visually-based, model-driven platforms require training and support so citizen and pro developers can work most effectively. The best software companies provide free training for all users and certification paths for those who want to become experts. They also offer extensive customer support, with a mix of self-service and 24/7 live support options. Vendors that provide a robust knowledgebase, online resources, and the ability for users to engage and collaborate are able to continually strengthen and grow their platform ecosystem. When considering low-code application platforms, we also think you should also take into account their adoption in the marketplace by investigating the available packaged service offerings and components.
Governance – Lack of application development governance can spawn shadow IT, so it is important for enterprises to have the capabilities to orchestrate and manage developer and collaborator roles and automatically enforce guardrails. By centrally managing applications, enterprises can proactively reduce the risk of regulatory non-compliance. Look for a low-code platform that tracks work and provides visibility from the initial business request through application build, release, and retirement, and allows your IT leaders to establish guardrails in every stage of development.
Security and quality of service – Last, but definitely not least, it’s important to understand how a low-code platform allows you to secure your application. What are the security standards and certifications supported by the platform? Can you configure custom security features and controls? Does the platform have a dependency on a third-party software that could expose your applications to risk? Consider also how these security capabilities differ depending on whether the platform is deployed on premises, in a public cloud, or in a private cloud. Also consider how the platform vendor keeps you current with software patches and updates.
So, how do you choose the right low-code platform for your organization?
As the technology behind digital channels and devices continues to evolve and enterprises are driven to constantly innovate, business leaders should look for low-code platforms that enable multiple experiences. When evaluating platforms, first and foremost, understand what your use case is. Do you need a platform that supports citizen developers, pro developers, or both? Do you need a platform that enables collaboration across lines of business and geographic regions? What are the critical internal and external applications and systems that you need to integrate with? Do you expect to scale your applications as your enterprise grows? What are the experiences you want your end-users to have? Start by answering these questions and understanding the reasoning behind each answer, while also keeping in mind that your organization and needs will continue to evolve. Then, take advantage of a free platform trial to test-drive the platforms that most closely align with your needs.
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